About 50s style
Some of the most enduring fashion icons of the 50s were in fact movie stars, with images of the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day and Grace Kelly having left a lasting imprint on the fashion world. Widely regarded as one of the most elegant bridal gowns of all time, the dress Grace Kelly wore on the day she wed Prince Rainer III in 1956 is fondly remembered. It served to help define the 50s as the era of ‘the fashionable look’. Featuring a high collar lace top with a sweetheart neckline visible beneath, long lace sleeves and a full skirt, this iconic dress was an inspiration for fashion houses across the globe.
Grace Kelly’s dress was one of many memorable moments for wedding gowns in the 1950s. The fifties also gave birth to the sweetheart neckline, brought into the mainstream by Elizabeth Taylor in the original ‘Father of the Bride’. Consisting of a curved bottom edge that is concave down and usually double scalloped to resemble the top of a heart, the side edges often converge on the neck, similar to the halterneck.
Many dresses of the time were designed to be worn as strapless evening gowns with coordinated boleros. Emphasis was also placed on full bodied skirts, often with lace tiers and frills, the effects of which were intensified by luxurious multi-layered nylon mesh petticoats.
Other common features of the time were ballerina-length dresses and gloves. Shorter hemlines led to brides paying more attention to their shoes and also a tendency to wear shorter veils, preferably birdcage veils or skull caps. Gloves also became standard in the 50s, many being fingerless and made from satin, lace or tulle.
Another driving movement of the 1950s began with the Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’, which launched in 1947. Full skirts, preferably knee-length or mid-calf length, along with thin waists were the outstanding features of the designs, both qualities being emphasised by Dior’s inclination to use excess layering of materials to exaggerate the hourglass figure. He was also fond of strapless evening gowns and used built-in boning to hold them up, with tulle being a particular fabric of choice, affording him volume without unnecessary weight.
The era of the 1950s evidently had an enormous influence on the world of fashion. Over 60 years later we only have to look around to appreciate its impact on the clothes we wear and the styles we adopt.